Exclusive: Sadiq Khan faces Labour backlash over cannabis announcement

Sadiq Khan walks through cannabis plants which are being legally cultivated at  a licensed factory in Los Angeles. (Photo: Stefan Rousseau via PA Wire/PA Images)
Sadiq Khan walks through cannabis plants which are being legally cultivated at a licensed factory in Los Angeles. (Photo: Stefan Rousseau via PA Wire/PA Images)

Sadiq Khan walks through cannabis plants which are being legally cultivated at a licensed factory in Los Angeles. (Photo: Stefan Rousseau via PA Wire/PA Images)

Sadiq Khan is facing a shadow cabinet backlash after he set up a commission to look at the UK’s laws on cannabis.

The London mayor made the announcement during a trip to America.

Former Labour frontbencher Lord Falconer will chair the new body, which will make recommendations on what more can be done to tackle drug-related crime.

But HuffPost UK can reveal that some members of the shadow cabinet, including shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper, are furious at Khan’s plans, fearing it will allow the Tories to portray Labour as soft on drugs.

In the wake of the mayor’s announcement, Tory chairman Oliver Dowden sent an email to supporters declaring: “Will you help stop Sadiq Khan legalising drugs?”

“Yvette is furious about it,” a Labour source said. “People are just rolling their eyes because it definitely is not the official party line.”

Another added: “There is frustration across the frontbench at being completely blindsided by this.

“We’re clear what our position is and our drugs policy position is extremely firm.

“This is not something that Sadiq can change unilaterally because he doesn’t have the power to do that as mayor. It beggars belief.”

Shadow health secretary Wes Streeting is also understood to be angry at Khan’s intervention.

However, another Labour source said: “YouGov says a majority of the public support legalisation of cannabis.

“Sadiq has positioned himself as a progressive mayor on the side of the public prepared to take on the tough questions to genuinely tackle crime rather than pointless posturing that isn’t even popular anyway.”

During his US trip, the London mayor visited a cannabis dispensary in California — where the drug is legal for medical and recreational use by adults — which he described as “fascinating”.

While on the trip, Khan told the BBC: “We need to have an honest, open conversation about the evidence in relation to the history of cannabis and our laws in the UK and our experience of the health consequences in relation to crime and the community.

“The best way to do that will be with the drugs commission we’ve now set up.

“You can hear from the experts, that’s one thing, but seeing it for yourself ... hearing from those who cultivate and grow this plant has been fascinating.”

Patel was one of a number of senior Tories who were quick to criticise Khan for his intervention, saying his time would be “better spent focusing on knife and drug crime in London”.

“The mayor has no powers to legalise drugs,” she tweeted. “They ruin communities, tear apart families and destroy lives.”

This article originally appeared on HuffPost UK and has been updated.

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